SSP Daily Digest: 4/22

PA-Sen: The founder of the PA chapter of the Club for Growth has called on Pat Toomey to drop out (!), saying that he’s too conservative for Pennsylvania. (No shit.) The Toomey camp fired back with some mostly non-responsive B.S. (D)

CA-Gov: San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom made the official leap from exploring the California governor’s race to being an officially announced candidate yesterday. He joins Lt. Gov. John Garamendi as the only formal candidates in the race, although Garamendi’s campaign is on hold while he pursues the CA-10 special election.

CA-Sen: The California GOP has lined up a “strong second choice” to challenge Barbara Boxer if ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina doesn’t get in the race. African-American talk radio host Larry Elder, who was on Los Angeles’s KABC for 15 years, is meeting with GOP officials, but still sidelined while waiting for Fiorina. (The pro-choice, pro-pot legalization Elder is very much from the libertarian wing of the party.) Assemblyman Chuck Devore is already officially a candidate, but the party seems unenthused about his odds.

NC-Sen, NC-07: Dem Rep. Mike McIntyre says that his re-election to the House is his current “concentration”, but when asked if he’s considering a Senate bid, McIntyre told a local ABC affiliate that “you never say never to anything.” A recent PPP poll had McIntyre trailing Richard Burr by only five points. (J)

TN-09: Rep. Steve Cohen, as a white Jewish man representing a mostly African-American district, is going to always be vulnerable to primary challenges (as seen with last year’s mudfest with Nikki Tinker). It looks like he’ll be facing a serious test this year, as Memphis mayor Willie Herenton has formed an exploratory committee for the House race. Herenton is African-American and has been mayor since 1991, elected five times. On the other hand, there may be some Herenton fatigue going on in this district, as he is under federal investigation, was re-elected most recently with less than 50% of the vote, and announced his resignation in 2008 only to withdraw it shortly after.

NY-20: You know it’s over for Jim Tedisco when major Republicans are telling him to pack it in. Yesterday, ex-Rep. Tom Davis said it was over, and today, state senator Betty Little (who lost the special election nomination to Tedisco) and Dan Isaacs (who’s running for state GOP chair) also called for the pulling of the plug. Isaacs is so upset that he’s reduced to making up new words: “Tedisco appears not able to pull out a victory in an overwhelmingly Republican district; to me that’s the final indignancy.”

MI-02: Roll Call takes a quick look at the race to replace retiring Rep. Pete Hoekstra. On the GOP side, former state rep. Bill Huizenga is the “biggest voice that’s out there,” but state senator Wayne Kuipers is poised to get in, as is former NFL player Jay Riemersma, who’s well connected with the Christian right. (Notice a common thread in those names? This is the nation’s most heavily Dutch-American district.) There are three Democratic state reps in the district, too, but none of them seem to be making a move yet.

Michigan: An interesting white paper obtained from the Michigan GOP shows that they’re quite pessimistic about getting back into power in 2010, despite the advantages they seem to be taking into next year’s governor’s race. Their suburban base has eroded since the 1990s, and their one-note message just isn’t resonating with swing voters anymore.

NRSC: Continuing our theme of unusually reality-based Republicans today, NRSC John Cornyn is sounding an increasingly cautious note about senate prospects in 2010, telling the Hill that it’s “going to be real hard” to keep the Democrats from breaking 60 seats in 2010.

NH-St. Sen.: Ex-Rep. Jeb Bradley, who lost twice to Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, has begun a new, more low-key chapter in his career, as a state senator. He easily won a special election, 61-39, over retired judge Bud Martin, to retain a GOP-held open seat. Dems continue to hold a 14-10 edge in the chamber.

John Sununu Sr. (the state GOP chair) didn’t seem interested in spinning the victory as indication of a new GOP trend in New Hampshire, though. Always a charmer, Sununu’s thoughts instead were:

He said Bradley’s election actually helps [Gov. John] Lynch. Bradley could be counted on to sustain a Lynch veto of the gay marriage and transgender discrimination legislation, “if he (Lynch) finds the strength to veto that garbage,” Sununu said.

TN-09: Up-to-the-Minute Live Action Team Coverage

In the last few hours since we last checked in on the race in TN-09 (where the primary is tomorrow):

* Nikki Tinker was declared Worst Person in the World by Keith Olbermann. (If anyone can recall any other Democrat receiving this, um, honor, please let us know in the comments!)

* Nikki Tinker, or at least her ad, was condemned by EMILY’s List, who had previously endorsed her.

EMILY’s List president Ellen Malcolm issued a statement Wednesday evening condemning Tinker’s most recent ad.  The group, which endorses Democratic women who favor abortion rights, has been Tinker’s most prominent backer.

“We were shocked to see the recent ads run by the Nikki Tinker for Congress campaign. We believe the ads are offensive and divisive,”

(The ad has been scrubbed from YouTube by the Tinker campaign; unfortunately, the embed below no longer works.)

* Steve Cohen forcibly removed a cameraman from his house who had barged in uninvited to Cohen’s hastily-called news conference at Cohen’s house to address the religion-baiting ad… and the cameraman is allegedly pressing ‘assault’ charges. (Video from the local Memphis Fox affiliate is available here:… The cameraman is an Armenian-American activist and documentary filmmaker who has been stalking Cohen all week; he’s not officially affiliated with the Tinker camp, but Armenian groups have given more than $30K to the Tinker campaign because of Cohen’s opposition to the bill to call the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians genocide (and thus infuriate Turkey).

Small legalistic note: there’s a big difference between some sorehead pressing charges, and the county DA actually following through on them (which I guess we’ll find out about that tomorrow). The video shows Cohen escorting the guy out the door with hand firmly on his arm and giving him a shove out the door for good measure; since the cameraman was essentially trespassing, this isn’t likely to amount to anything.

Also (h/t to BruinKid): the documentarian, Peter Musurlian, was previously a GOP operative, working as the district director for Carlos Moorhead, who until 1996 represented the Pasadena-area district now represented by Adam Schiff.

* UPDATE (Thursday morning): Barack Obama issued a statement condemning the ad (although not Tinker by name).

“These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee,” Obama said in a statement. “It’s time to turn the page on a politics driven by negativity and division so that we can come together to lift up our communities and our country.”

TN-09: Ooops, One More Dive Into the Dumpster

Yesterday I discussed the ad from Nikki Tinker, the challenger in the TN-09 primary on Thursday, which made a visual linkage between Steve Cohen and a KKK rally. I assumed this was the Tinker campaign’s closing argument, ending the campaign on the most distasteful note possible.

Well, I was wrong. They’ve released another ad. In a race that’s been about gender and race, they’re back where they started: religion.

CHILD’S VOICE: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” ANNCR: “Who is the real Steve Cohen anyway?” CHILD’S VOICE: “I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” ANNCR: “While he’s in our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet…” CHILD’S VOICE: “If I should die before I wake…” ANNCR: “He is the only senator who thought our kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray in school.” CHILD’S VOICE: I pray the Lord my soul to take. ANNCR: “Congressman, sometimes apologies just aren’t enough.” TINKER: “I’m Nikki Tinker, and I approve this message.”

Note the narrator’s remarkably ham-fisted emphasis on “our” churches. (Cohen is Jewish.) Nice anti-Semitic dog-whistle… although it seems the Tinker campaign accidentally grabbed the bullhorn instead of the dog-whistle on the way out the door.

TN-09: One Last Dive Into the Dumpster

There’s time for one last TV spot before Thursday’s primary in TN-09, so here’s the closing statement released yesterday by Nikki Tinker, who’s challenging incumbent Steve Cohen in the primary in this Memphis-based district.

As you’ll recall, Steve Cohen is a white Jewish man, and a solid progressive, who represents the mostly-African-American 9th, having won the 2006 primary to succeed Harold Ford Jr. via a split black vote. Tinker (who lost to Cohen in 2006) is running to his right, but challenging him on the basis of race, gender, religion, and everything but the issues.

Apparently, Cohen, while a member of Memphis’ Center City Commission, voted against removal of a statue of Confederate General (and KKK founder) Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park. The ad features a local pastor criticizing Cohen’s decision… while running unrelated stock footage of a KKK rally in the background.

Memphis’ major paper, the Commercial-Appeal, rightly took Tinker to task for her last-minute appeal, which can’t even be described as lowest-common-denominator since it’s mathematically impossible to divide something by zero:

Beyond all that, it’s unfortunate that the Tinker campaign would evoke the KKK image in Memphis. Many residents still have lingering resentment over a 1998 Klan rally Downtown that turned violent when anti-Klan protesters were tear gassed by police and several windows were broken.

Apparently, none of that has stopped Tinker supporters from framing Thursday’s election as a black-white contest or a division between African-Americans and Jews.

The candidate’s desperate efforts to paint Cohen with the broad brush of racist imagery may win a few votes to her cause. Those who know Cohen will see through the smear.

TN-09: EMILY’s List Endorses Tinker Over Cohen

(From the diaries – promoted by James L.)

I’m not sure if this is a case of EMILY’s List jumping the shark, drinking the gender essentialist Kool-Aid, or throwing Steve Cohen under the bus (maybe all three cliches at once?), but EMILY’s List has endorsed Nikki Tinker in the primary in TN-09 rather than incumbent progressive Steve Cohen.

EMILY’s List offered the following rationale:

“This is an extraordinary circumstance for us. We don’t make these decisions lightly,” said EMILY’s List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver. “Nikki ran a strong race in 2006 has put a strong race together in 2008, and she’s the only woman in this race.”

Cohen’s response was:

Cohen said he was somewhat surprised by the endorsement, citing his support and ‘A’ rating from the abortion-rights group Planned Parenthood. “It’s unfortunate that the women who give money and trust to EMILY’s List are not going to see their money going against Republicans, but that their money is going to used against a champion of choice,” Cohen said.

And Cohen’s campaign manager got more to the point!

“Steve Cohen doesn’t have the proper plumbing for EMILY’s List. His record as a state senator and congressman doesn’t mean anything to EMILY’s List because he’s not the right gender,” said Cohen campaign manager Jerry Austin.

The race in TN-09 is a curious confluence of gender and race; Steve Cohen is a Jewish white guy who represents a district that’s almost 60% African-American (who emerged from the primary via a split black vote). This is the seat that used to be represented by Harold Ford, Jr., so with Cohen a member of the Progressive Caucus and sporting a Progressive Punch score of 95%, he’s a big improvement over Ford, who was consistently the least liberal member of the CBC.

By contrast, Tinker (who is African-American and, obviously, female) is running as the apparently more conservative option (and, presumably, one who would therefore be less representative of the views of her D+18 district). Tinker’s background is in corporate law, specializing in “labor relations,” first for large firm Ford & Harrison and then for the general counsel for Memphis-based Northwest Airlines affiliate Pinnacle Airways.

For what it’s worth, a poll from a few weeks ago showed Cohen beating Tinker by a gaudy 63-11 margin, so unless it’s intended simply as a thumb in the eye to Cohen, it may be too little too late for them (although the primary isn’t until August 7).

Why a thumb in the eye right now? Cohen may have a frowny face on their good/bad chart as a result of his May 10 gaffe where he used a sexually loaded cinematic allusion to urge Hillary Clinton to exit stage right:

“Glenn Close should have stayed in that tub, and Sen. Clinton has had a remarkable career and needs to move to the next step, which is helping elect the Democratic nominee,” Cohen said.

Cohen rightly expressed his regrets over the comparison later, but is it an offense that really justifies EMILY’s List diverting its resources away from the general election task of beating Republicans and their decidedly non-feminist agenda?